"Help's on the way, Harry," Jack said, tears clouding his eyes. "You're gonna make it," he said, though he knew it was wishful thinking.
"Just returning the favor, Jack…" Maybourne said, before his eyes closed for the last time.
CHAPTER 21. EPILOG: NEW LIFE
Five months later…
"Parents and godparents… What is it you ask for this child?"
"Baptism," Jack and Sam said confidently, echoed by Daniel and Janet, the child's godparents.
"What name have you chosen for your child?"
The timeless ceremony of initiation continued in this manner for another twenty minutes. The small infant, dressed in an elaborate child-sized white gown was presented to the gathering of friends and family as a new member of the Church. Her proud parents and godparents looked on in awe as Rev. Leonard Kelly gently poured blessed water over her forehead and rubbed sweet smelling oils on the top of her head and on her hands.
Finally Daniel lit a special candle from a larger candle standing by the altar. All present were told this light symbolized the light of Christ which would accompany the child through life. The words of the liturgy reminded parents and godparents that it was their responsibility to keep that light burning brightly for their child.
The four adults gathered around the altar listened to the priest with rapt attention. The infant's three older siblings, standing close to their parents, were a bit more distracted. Jake, Grace and Jon took turns waving to friends in the church and touching their new baby sister to reassure themselves she was real
Soon enough the ceremony was over. Father Kelly looked out over the two dozen or so people gathered in the small chapel and pronounced the final words of blessing. The concluding words were met with large smiles and a round of applause. His good friend, Jack O'Neill, now the father of four young children sported a genuinely proud and happy grin as he stood, one arm around his wife's shoulder, his other hand holding his youngest son's hand.
"Len, you know we're headed back to the house for a party," Jack said. "Do you need a ride?"
"I have the rental, Jack," Len replied. "I'm going to thank the pastor for his hospitality and then I'll be on my way to the house. I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"Thanks for everything, Len," Jack said. "Your being here means a lot to us."
Len nodded almost imperceptibly. It was a small gesture, but one he knew his old friend would recognize. Without further ado, Jack moved on to check in with other guests, leaving Sam and the baby with Len.
"He has no idea how happy he's made me today, Sam," Len said, looking at mother and child. "I have the joy of seeing my good friend truly happy."
"He really is happy, Len," Sam said, a lovely smile meeting his gaze.
"Did you know Jack visited me shortly after Beth's birth?" Len asked.
"He mentioned it," she replied, still smiling. She clearly remembered the conversation, especially the part where Jack thought the church would fall down when he walked in.
"Jack was just sitting in the pew, alone, quiet, head in hands. I'd ever seen Jack O'Neill sitting quietly without playing with something. I like to think he'd started to talk with God again that day. He's been waiting for Jack to come around, you know."
Sam nodded her agreement. As she walked with Len towards the entrance of the church, she offered her own silent thanks for the safety of her family. The tiny baby she held in her arms had been born to a close knit, loving family, who'd survived a great deal over the past year.
Five months ago, she'd feared for the lives of her oldest children. For weeks after their kidnapping they'd been fearful, clingy, all the things she'd expect from children who'd been traumatized in such a way. Yet their resilience and response to being safe once more in the arms of their parents had been a wondrous thing to behold.
Exiting the church, Sam caught sight of her husband. Jack was waving her over to where he stood talking with Malcolm and Harry. No doubt he was doing some friendly arm twisting, trying to convince the two to come back to the house.
It had been a very long road for each of these men. Each felt awkward and unsure of himself in the current situation.
Malcolm Barrett had recently left a private mental health facility, where he'd been treated by Air Force psychiatrists. Shortly after he was incapacitated in the gate room, the Tokra had arranged to remove the Ba'al symbiote from the agent. The removal had gone smoothly and Malcolm had little if any physical damage. But the emotional damage was extensive. As everyone had learned with Sarah Gardner, recovery required in-depth therapy and long term monitoring. After nearly a month of near catatonia, Malcolm had begun to interact therapeutically with his doctors. In the past few weeks, he's begun to face the guilt he felt about the kidnapping. Being here today was a huge step in his recovery and required courage on everyone's part.
And Harry, well Harry was simply glad to be alive, thanks to Tok'ra and Asgard medical technology. Oh, and, thanks to his good friend Jack O'Neill, he was now a free man on any planet.
Hours later, the christening party was over. The O'Neills were alone in their house. Friends and extended family had departed around 2000 hours, knowing it was time for the children to settle down. Jake and Grace, after their typical protests, had gone up to bed without much fuss. Jon had needed two stories tonight and Beth, well Beth was on the porch with Mom and Dad enjoying this warm summer evening.
Sam had just finished feeding her youngest when Jack came out to join her, kissing her gently before sitting down beside her.
"It was a good day."
"Yes, it was," she answered. "I'm so glad Luke and Maureen could make it. Michael's getting so big."
"That he is that little nephew of mine. I'm lucky they came at all after the way I talked to Luke."
"Your sister loves you, Jack, and Luke's a smart guy. He understood."
Jack raised his eyebrow, nodding slightly. Once again focusing on his wife and Beth, his smile grew and he leaned in closer.
"Hey, can I hold her for awhile?" Jack asked.
"Sure," Sam said as she studied her husband. "Jack, you are such a …"
"Such a what?" Jack asked indignantly
"Dad … you are such a dad," she answered wistfully.
"Yeah, that's me and proud of it."
"I know you are; me too. We have four very lucky kids," she said, tenderly handing him their precious little girl.
"That we do, Sam," he said, clearly deep in thought.
"Sometimes I wonder … Was it fair to bring them into all of this?
"What are you talking about?"
"The danger they're in just by being our kids, not to mention the ability, growing up being different …"
"Jack, they're happy children. They know they're loved and they can depend on us," Sam said tenderly, surprised to be the one to reassure her normally confident husband.
"But they know we can't always protect them. What about that? How are we going to make that right?" he asked. Then, looking at Beth, sleeping peacefully in his arms, "I don't ever want her to be scared like that."
"Much as we'd like to, we can't control everything that happens, Jack. No one can." Sam paused thoughtfully. "Malcolm couldn't control what happened to him."
"Hey," Jack protested, "control or no control, he's never going to be alone with our kids again."
"I know," Sam agreed sadly.
The parents sat quietly for long moments considering the truth of those words and enjoying the simple beauty of their new baby.
"But we can control what we choose to do. Like Harry, he made some pretty gutsy choices," Sam said, continuing the earlier train of thought.
"Yeah, he did, didn't he? Jack replied. "Bright guy, that Harry is, getting his Tok'ra buddies to help. Wish I had the man's contacts; never could find the Tok'ra when I wanted them."
Sam giggled softly, remembering exactly how it used to be. "You certainly convinced the President that Harry did some pretty extraordinary things."
"Yeah, I did," Jack said. "I suppose I have my contacts too. It was the right thing to do, I owed him. I still owe him – he saved Grace's life, yours too for all I know. He put himself in danger from the minute he came back. If he was still Air Force I'd have put him up for the Medal of Honor. As it was, I thought he'd enjoy a Presidential Pardon."
"Nice," Sam said in vintage Jack-speak.
On cue, Beth wiggled in her father's arms, a tiny smile playing across her face.
"And don't you tell me that's gas," Jack quipped. "Our little girl thinks her daddy did something nice too."
A/N: Hope you enjoyed the story half as much as I enjoyed writing it. This was the final story in the series of prequels leading up to Alone.
Thanks again for reading and for all of your reviews.